Wednesday, 14 December 2011

And Statistics

On Monday 12th after a weekend of entertainment and entertaining, I got the results of my three monthly blood test.

Before I went in to see the doctor, I sat in the clinic praying; please don’t let my CA125 go up. I was aware that this was a pretty hopeless prayer, as the test was in, for better or worse.

I remembered Rabbi Lionel Blue recently saying bleakly, “Don’t pray for miracles just pray for courage.” You need that as you sit there looking at other women’s faces, wondering what they are going through.

At the previous test, my count was seven, up from five. That rise in the wrong direction made me almost sick with anxiety. The normal CA125 for cancer is anywhere under thirty five. One of the doctors told me hers is twenty, but the fact that it had gone up not down upset me. It had been five the time before. This marker of cancer is not accurate, but we are all obsessed with it.

This time it was down to six, and not only that, the young woman doctor was quite optimistic about my future!

This is the first time I have felt any reassurance that I might live beyond a couple of years. This doctor is young, perhaps she doesn’t think like the others yet, she was focussing on me as I am, not on statistics. Or maybe there is really no reason to be gloomy. Incredible.

“Your CA125 was only 60 when you had the cancer,” she said. Some people register in the thousands. I have pointed that out before, but it didn’t seem to mean anything positive. And there was that laughing and chuckling Dr Argawal saying, “With that level of disease it is unlikely the chemotherapy will work.” Adding for good measure, “It will be back in two months to a year.”

Well here we are nineteen months on and going strong.

“I eat a lot of nuts,” I said as the doctor began to examine me. It must have sounded rather odd, if she was listening. But oncology doctors probably hear more hysterical rubbish than any other sort.

As she prodded about my mind began rummaging through the fragments of statistics I have picked up since I first Googled the disease when this all started. I tried jamming these disjointed pieces together into a jigsaw:

Good: The CA125 was only ever at 60

Bad: I was 54, statistically the worst age to get the disease.

Good: The cancer cells were identified as endometrial which respond well to chemo, unlike glass cells which are more lethal.

Good: The cancer was well contained within the ovary (so it said in a letter)

Bad: It had moved in an odd trajectory into the lymph node in the groin and two nodes inside, making it a stage 4.

Good: The operation to remove the cancer went well. "Such a good process," said the young doctor.

Bad: The odds of surviving a stage 4

Good: The longer the remission the better the chances

At home in bed later I wondered if I can ever relax again. If I drop my guard, even in sleep, it might sneak back.

Have I learned anything from my short walk in the Valley of Death?

I think Yeats said, “We begin to live when we see life as tragedy.”

So I am living now. Is it better than before, and if this hadn’t happened, where would I be?

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